Can it really be 22 years since Ben Shephard first appeared on our TV screens? He started out in 1998 hosting The Bigger Breakfast with Dermot O’Leary and Melanie Sykes, and is now the chipper ying to Piers Morgan’s waspish yang on Good Morning Britain.
Lockdown restrictions have meant big changes at work for Ben, 44, who has learnt to wield his own make-up brush. The pandemic has touched him personally with Derek Draper, husband of GMB colleague Kate Garraway, in hospital with coronavirus since April. “Kate’s been phenomenal, she’s an incredible person,” Ben says of his close friend.
Concerned viewers recently pointed out how tired Ben himself looked on screen but he pointed out, “Well, I am! You go on [TV] first thing in the morning, you’re knackered.”
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Ben, who also presents Ninja Warrior and Tipping Point, shares his stunning family home with Annie, his wife of 16 years, and their sons Sam, 14, and Jack, 13. His garden, complete with “gin bench” and pristine lawn, often features on Instagram and is like a scene from the Chelsea Flower Show!
Last year he quit Goals On Sunday after nine years for the sake of Sam and Jack. “My boys are at an age when they need me around, perhaps even more now than when they were younger,” he explained. Here, Ben chats about taming his impatience, life in lockdown and competition with his sons…
Is it a struggle getting camera-ready for GMB at the moment?
We’re all doing our own make-up, which is pretty intense. There are lots of bags in the make-up room with everybody’s names on and we have strict instructions, us boys particularly, as to what goes on in what order. It’s a bit like painting by numbers. You pick up pot number one, then number two… It’s not easy to get it right, to not look like you’ve been Tangoed. Us guys have been absolutely hopeless.
Have you had any major mishaps yet?
The other day I completely forgot and I looked like I’d had a very heavy night the night before. That wasn’t the case, I just had no make-up on. I had to rush out during the break to tidy myself up.
Is make-up quite alien to you?
I’ve fully embraced the world of make-up for many years now. It was a secret kept away from the majority of men for far too long. If you’re feeling tired or hungover, a little bit of concealer or bronzer covers up a multitude of sins, in my experience. If you do it carefully, you can dramatically change the way you look so that people don’t look at you as if you’ve been very ill. I’ve been an advocate of tinted moisturiser for many years now.
You could launch your own men’s make-up range!
My boys would have great fun coming up with all sorts of concoctions for me to try. I did Soccer Aid with Kem [Cetinay] – now there’s a man who has a regime. The Love Island lot all take great care of themselves.
You’ve had help keeping your hair tidy during lockdown, haven’t you?
Yes, we got some clippers through the post and my wife and kids cut my hair for me. The boys had great fun at my expense, trimming my barnet. When you hand over a pair of clippers to your 13-year-old son, there’s a lot of revenge that could take place.
How are you looking after your mental health at the moment?
My two boys keep me very busy. We’ve been doing a bit of juggling and it’s got quite competitive learning new tricks. Exercise is my meditation. I stop thinking about everything and focus on the next challenge – whether it’s running or cycling or doing a HIIT session online. I love all the stuff being offered by people on Instagram or YouTube. It’s a distraction that we all need right now. If it only helps one person it’s more than enough.
Inside Ben Shephard's stunning London home with incredible garden
Your Ninja Warrior co-host Rochelle Humes is pregnant…
It’s really good news. Alaia [Rochelle’s oldest daughter] was saying she was desperate for a little brother. It must have been fate. They’re going to have a wonderful family. This little boy is going to be spoiled rotten by his big sisters. Marvin’s definitely looking forward to having another man in the house because at the moment there’s a lot of pink.
Which of your showbiz pals have you been in touch with during lockdown?
Most Friday nights, me and my close mates from school get on Zoom and have a few pints together at The Isolation Arms. And I’ve been speaking to Kammy [Chris Kamara] a lot, too.
Good Morning Britain
What do you think is the secret to your TV success?
I have no idea. I keep thinking I’ll get found out and they’ll say, “You’ve had your fun, now go get a proper job.” I’m very lucky I do a job I love.
Are you always as chirpy as you seem on TV?
I am relatively positive. I’ve always been upbeat and have a lot of positive energy. I was a nightmare as a kid – finding outlets to exhaust me was pretty tricky. I’m very impatient at times, too. If I think someone’s trying to take advantage of me, or someone I know, that can wind me up.
How do you deal with people winding you up?
I’ve got much better at letting that go and thinking, “In five minutes I won’t be wound up. Do I really need to get angry or should I walk away?” That instant reaction, that explosion of anger complicates things. There are ways of dealing with issues that don’t have to get aggressive.
Have you had any crazy experiences with fans pre-lockdown?
If you have never been out with Chris Kamara you don’t know what being famous is. Kammy is instantly recognisable. I can wander around incognito. Kammy can go nowhere. When we film Ninja Warrior, Rochelle and I describe it like going out with Justin Bieber. Vans stop, people come running out of shops. Everyone wants to chat with him. You might be in a toilet somewhere, in a pub maybe, and people will come up and ask for selfies. I’ve been offered the opportunity to sign different parts of people’s bodies in the past.
Tell us about raising money for the Covid-19 NHS Charities Together FIFA Cup…
All these high-profile sportsmen – and Love Island’s Kem, Chris [Hughes] and Shaughna [Phillips] – came together at a time when we were missing competitive sport and brought it into the virtual world. The level of competition was high, and seeing the world of football take on the world of Love Island was thoroughly entertaining.
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